Russia and Qatar may order 102 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft

Agency reports surfacing on Thursday indicate that European airplane manufacturer Airbus may soon bag two large orders, for a combined 102 planes, from Russia and Qatar for its A350 XWB aircraft. While Russian carrier Aeroflot may order up to 22 of the wide-body A350's, Qatar Airways may deliver a jumbo sized order for 88 of these planes.
  
In an announcement, Aeroflot has said that said that it now plans to sign a contract with Airbus for 10 to 15 A330 wide-bodied aircraft as part of a major fleet upgrade, with delivery scheduled in the latter part of 2008, as part of an "operating lease" agreement. These aircraft would act as a substitute for the A350s, which will begin arriving in 2015.

Aeroflot's order is meant to replenish its ageing fleet. It is also a big blow for archrival Boeing, which has been trying hard to get a foothold in Russia. 

In a related development, Qatar Airways confirmed its participation in talks with Airbus to purchase 80 A350s. The carrier has confirmed its interest in three variants of Airbus aircraft, saying that it hoped to confirm the new orders soon. The carrier now operates a fleet of 53 Airbus aircraft.

A Qatar Airways spokesperson said that the carrier had confirmed its interest in 60 A350s in 2005, and the additional 20 orders would allow it to service medium and long-haul routes.

Aeroflot had originally intended to opt for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, and had even placed a deposit. Deteriorating relations between the Kremlin and the White House have apparently ensured that the order will go Europe's way. Boeing officials had apparently given up on the order in February itself, describing it as "dead in the water."

On Thursday, Aeroflot officials more or less confirmed that they had given up on the Dreamliner.